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article imageSentences are lighter for men who murder female partners: Study

By Megan Hamilton     Nov 23, 2015 in Crime
Toronto - Men who murder their female partners are likelier to be convicted than men who are accused of killing strangers, but they also tend to receive lighter sentences, according to a recent Canadian study.
The study found men who kill wives, girlfriends, or other female members of their family are given shorter prison sentences than those who kill strangers, according to an article written by Colin Perkel for The Canadian Press, per Global News.
Not only that, but the study notes that men who murder women they know are treated less harshly throughout the entire justice process, and they usually face fewer charges of first-degree murder, News 1130 reports.
Study author Myrna Dawson, an associate sociology professor at the University of Guelph, analyzed Ontario homicide cases spanning the years between 1974 and 2013, which amounts to roughly one death every 10 days. She analyzed coroner's records, court files and police reports to review criminal charges, guilty pleas, and prison sentences.
She's termed this the "intimacy discount," The National Post reports.
It may mean that women murdered by male partners are seen as property, so these femicides," may not be treated as seriously as other femicides, she noted.
There's also one other possible factor: Murder of a partner or family member may be viewed as a spontaneous "crime of passion" or the result of victim provocation.
While these beliefs may be predominant, there has not been much examination of the stereotypes that result from these beliefs, Dawson noted. And some research points to premeditation or intent being more likely in cases where men kill their female partners.
Here's where things get peculiar: Despite the lighter sentences, the study found that men who kill female partners are convicted at rates that are three times higher than men who kill female strangers.
This is likely due to the fact that crimes involving relatives are usually easier to solve and prosecute, according to research. The shorter sentences may be due to charges that are often reduced in exchange for guilty pleas.
Dawson is currently researching the correlation between intimacy, violence, and convictions and sentencing.
And while those acting within the courts — judges, Crown attorneys, defense lawyers — are professional, they are also members of the public. This means that how they see these crimes is also important, she noted.
Then there's the "female victim effect," in which she notes men who kill women are usually treated more harshly than when they kill other men, and men who kill female strangers face the severest punishment, especially at sentencing, The Globe and Mail reports. A good deal of corroboration in previous American research has gone into this, but researchers disagree about why this happens.
One possibility is that it may be because femicide often occurs during a sexual assault, and this is seen as a significant aggravating factor. Another possibility is that the justice system may view women as more vulnerable, and therefore in greater need of protection.
Women are at much higher risk of being murdered by someone they know than by a stranger, said Dawson, who is a Canada research chair in public policy in criminal justice. Only one in 10 femicides are perpetrated by strangers. According to statistics, Canadian men kill other men at about twice the rate they kill women.
Fortunately, Canada's homicide rate has been dropping steadily over the last several decades, due largely to the fact that "domestic" killings have declined sharply, The Globe and Mail reports.
Dawson's study "Punishing femicide: criminal justice responses to the killing of women over four decades," is being published in the journal Current Sociology.
More about men who kill female partners, men who murder female partners, sentences are lighter, Strangers, Men
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